The Faerie Queene and Twelfth Night Poems Essay –


2-part final essay. You will need to answer both questions in short essay format. Each essay answer should be 2-3 pages. Total of 6 pages. (No more than 6 pages). Double spaced, size 12 font.

Tutor will need Spenser’s The Faerie Queene, and Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night


By way of preamble, a quick review of some core concepts:

One of the premises of this course addresses the formal character of experience.As we have seen, this feature takes shape through perceived attributes of personal identity, available social and political roles, and shared norms of culture – including norms that guide understanding of meaningful distinctions between genders, sexes, and different social stations.The forms of such understanding may be easily recognizable, but many require careful attention to become legible.

We can see some of the difficulty when we turn to Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night.For all its interest in the erotic entanglements of Olivia and Viola/Cesario and the evident erotic bond between Sebastian and Antonio, neither of these couples finds a sustained, visible place in the outworking of the plot. Their intimacy (or possible intimacy) may be showable but it is not tellable: it does not translate into a story.At the same time, Twelfth Night is more than a simple reflection of the heteronormative marriage game and the traditional codes of masculine, homosocial (male-focused) privilege.The queer element to Twelfth Night derives from the surplus it introduces into the otherwise neat resolutions to the entangled plots and “midsummer madness” in Illyria.We may not know how to finish the story of Olivia’s attraction to Viola/Cesario and the story of the erotic bond between Antonio and Sebastian, but the very visibility of these unfinished stories at key moments in the play reminds us that the world represented in Twelfth Night is an unstable hybrid of known forms of experience together with a host of what Socrates’ Diotima might call “pregnant” behaviors and fantasies that are not fully legible or recognized by the dominant culture.

In this regard, Twelfth Night expresses two of Foucault’s points:

1) Cultures are built out of the dynamic “tactical polyvalence” of discourses.This notion suggests that texts served up as representative samples of a given culture typically show more than they claim to know. In premodern cultures, the “showing more” part is where you find the queer element.Paradoxically (to us), the “showing more” appears through unfinished, implicit, or incongruous features of the texts at hand.(These features are at the limit of we have been calling “allegory” and “covenant” – places where the “secret” of the text slips into view – or into a moment that invites conjecture – and where the imagined social cohesion in the represented world seems to be challenged.)

2) Cultures mobilize the “tactical polyvalence” of discourses in ways that illustrate the two main senses of power: power over something (domination, management, or destruction) and power for something (the capacity to bring something into being or to fruition).The queer dimension of this point in premodern literatures is complicated.Recall the “queer” Porter at the gate of the Bower of Bliss in The Faerie Queene.He is a symptom of danger, and the danger reappears in the queering of the petrarchan lyric in the Bower of Bliss.Acrasia’s sexual mastery of Verdant makes explicit the non-normative stakes of the Petrarchan cliché of male submissiveness to the quasi-divine female object of desire.Against these features we must weigh Marlowe’s comic handling of erotic adventure in Hero and Leander, Shakespeare’s curiosity in trying to imagine untapped erotic possibilities in Twelfth Night, and Thomas Nashe’s scalpel-like satire of virtually all the pieties of his day.The sheer range of Jack Wilton’s identities as he drifts from England to Germany to Italy and then back to England holds several examples of the malleable sense of what is queer in Nashe’s world.

From these observations we may add a third, global point:

3) The premodern queer does not translate straightforwardly (no pun intended) into images of homosexual or gay or queer behavior or affect in the modern sense of these terms, but it does have an affinity with the root sense of queer as a perturbation in the “system” of culture and as a search for ways to permit non-lethal or de-stigmatized passage and communication between normative and non-normative zones of culture.


With these premises in mind, please write a short commentary on each selected text for part 1 and part 2. In each case, explain how you see the “queer” element surfacing in the text, using any of the above remarks as a point of departure. Each essay should be at least 2 pages, and the entire essay should be no more than 6 pages. This means that you need to pick specific passages and zero in on the sense you want to draw from them. Find a group of details or a specific moment and inspect it, bearing in mind that once you have done this you can refer to any of the texts we have read this term to support or enrich your point.


How do objects help construct queer moments or dimensions of reality in Spenser’s Faerie Land?For this option, please choose an object (or a group of objects) and show how variations in its function or symbolic value as it recurs (or morphs into a related object) help you locate a queer aspect of Spenser’s argument in Book 2 of The Faerie Queene.(For example, think of the changing functions of liquid in Book 2, or shifting representations of clothing).


Shakespeare, Twelfth Night: focus on any single scene and place it in the context of a problem you see being addressed in the play.For example, the play’s clear investment in the concept of melancholia effectively “warps” or queers the philosophical legacy of melancholia by turning its liminal significance away from the vertical “ascent” to contemplative rapture and treating the concept instead as a horizontal extension to the edges of legible experience (i.e., as symptom of stalling or radical ambiguity before a thought or perception that does not yet have a known form).Thus Feste’s melancholy song in Act 2, scene 4 triggers the strange quasi-confessional scene between Viola/Cesario and Orsino in which Viola’s secret nearly gets exposed—but not quite.This ambiguity introduces a species of queer eroticism between the two visibly male figures on stage—something you could analyze by looking closely at the dialog.

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